It’s safe to say 2018 has started well. I have a suntan, which based on the current Belgium weather, will fade in less than a week. I have started the process of getting my teeth fixed, had a haircut and binge watched Peaky Blinders. I’ve had my first curry of 2018, and oh, I won my tenth national championships. So it’s been a pretty busy time really.
Off-Road Braaaaping in Spain
My training camp in Spain was delightful. We had the largest indoor/outdoor balcony feasible for non-millionaires. It was sunny most days. We had the most epic rainstorm I’ve seen in Spain with hail settling on the ground that looked like snow. The poor locals had no idea what to do with themselves.
I’ve been going training in the Costa del Sol for a few years now, as the weather is so reliable. I know where all the good roads are for training, which is really useful when you have specific length efforts, but I’ve never found a good off-road training ground until this year.
We did the obligatory beach training but this year we also found an amazing little motocross circuit really close to our apartment with lots of berms and mini washboards. Technically, Stef found it while I was doing efforts nearby. He was only supposed to look at it, but disappeared for a good hour before reappearing, bike covered in dust, sweating profusely with a massive smile on his face.
I’m pretty sure he made braaaaap noises the whole time!
Championship Number Ten
After all the training and Netflix binge watching it was back to blighty for the British National Championships in the very north of England. If you look at a map of England, right near the top where it meets Scotland is Durham, a beautiful little city complete with a stunning cathedral. This is where our nationals were at Hetton-le-Hole. It was a good course, and unusually for the north in January, it didn’t rain at all and so the course for our race was really quite fast.
It was a great race, I really enjoyed it. We had the bonus of being on the BBC online so it could be watched all around the world, a first for U.K. ’cross.
A lot of people said to me “I thought your kit was red.” Well yes it is, but I raced in a blue version because I am a prima donna and really want new everything at every race, I mean who wouldn’t right?
The bonus of being part of an individual program is I have the ability to give back to my supporters in ways that I’ve never been able to before. So the honest answer is the blue kit is based on the company colours of Xypex, one of my title sponsors. They are a British-based company and we wanted to do something special for them.
After the race and all the things that go with that, interviews, TV, signing postcards, talking to all the young people who are basically why I love cyclocross, it was back to the motor home for part two.
A Challenged Channel Crossing
There’s a really great ’cross race the day after nationals in Otegem, Belgium. It’s really close to our winter home but a really long way from Hetton-le-Hole. We left with plenty of time to get to the tunnel. The tunnel is a train crossing between England and France that you drive your car onto. We used to try to convince Americans that you look out the window of the train and can see fish swimming by.
Normally it is a very efficient machine, with two to three trains running every hour, so even if you miss your booked train you just get on the next one. Except Sunday they decided to do maintenance work, so by missing our 21:15 train we were told our next one would be at 6 a.m.
Luckily we were in the motor home. Unluckily, we hadn’t actually prepared to sleep in the motor home. With quite a bit of rearranging, including more than the usual amount of stuff squeezed in the garage, all the blankets found, I was set up with all I needed for a short but good night’s sleep. Meanwhile the long-suffering Stef waited inside at reception in case they managed to bump us into an earlier train meaning zero sleep for him.
My own sleep wasn’t helped by my brain whirring at high speed. Every time the strong wind rocked the camper, I convinced myself someone was trying to steal my bikes from the garage. It’s safe to say I had some pretty crazy dreams including something about a dentist who was a MotoGP fan selling KindHuman bikes! Anyway, I made it through the night and we jumped onto the 6 a.m. train and drove straight to the race.
It’s safe to say I was a little tired during the race but I did get to wear my shiny new national champ’s skin suit, which stayed white for at least three minutes in the traditional rainy grim muddy Belgian weather.
It feels amazing to be back in the jersey. I don’t usually stop to think about it because there is always a bigger race in January, but I did have a gin and tonic last night to celebrate with Stef. As a racer you can try to convince yourself it doesn’t matter. The last time I raced Nationals I lost it on the last half a lap because of my own stupid mistake, and it has bugged me for two years. Then last year I didn’t get to race as I was still out broken.
This year really did mean something to me and I’m so looking forward to an entire year of jet washing my white kit.
Next up is the Nommay World Cup in France then the Hoogerheide World Cup and then Worlds. It’s safe to say a pretty intense time.